Posts Tagged ‘L pod’

Synchronized Orcas!

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Today was another one of those magical days, sunny skies, flat water, and family groups of Resident Orcas everywhere. When the M/V Sea Lion got on scene with the whales we saw numerous dorsal fins and spouts in the distance, and they were all coming our way! As it turned out, all of LPod was there traveling together in the Haro Strait. I quickly calculated the number of dorsal fins and surmised that it had to be LPod since they have the largest pod size and most male Orcas. Male Orca dorsal fins are each to recognize morphologically speaking; their dorsals are, on average, 5-6 feet tall!

It was truly amazing seeing all 36 whales surfacing and breathing together. They Orcas were “resting” a term given to the behavior of Orcas when they come close together, surface more often, and move at a slow pace. In fact, the degree of biological kinship between individual Orcas is thought to be correlated with the degree of respiratory synchronicity. In other words, the rhythm of breaths serves as a behavioral display of family unity; and even possibly social familiarity and affection among Orcas.  It was very peaceful to see while listening to their vocalizations over the hydrophone.

I managed to narrow down who we were watching: L25-Ocean Sun (matriarch of L-Pod est. born 1928), L85- Mystery, L22- Spirit and L89- Solstice (Spirits son), L41- Mega, L77- Matia and her calf L119, L78- Gaia, and L92- Cruiser were among the many we saw! I can’t wait to get back out there tomorrow!!!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lino

San Juan Safaris

The Boys Are Back In Town!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

Alright so not only our are Southern Resident male orcas in town, but our females too! On both our afternoon and evening trip, guests aboard M/V Sea Lion were swarmed with J, K, and L Pod! Captain Mike had his hands full trying to maintain the designated 200 yds away from the resident orcas when all 82 whales were out and about foraging over Hein Bank. You would think aboard the boat it would be filled with “ooohs and ahhhs” from guests, but infact, it was filled with “Nooo and Ughhh” from all the almost caught breaches in the painfully small viewfinder of their cameras. Breaches happening all around the boat had passengers spinning in circles just trying to catch the ultimate shot. As far as whale watching goes, I’d say its a great day when your biggest problem is the inability to pick a spot to look because there is just so much activity going on around you. Needless to say, it was an amazing day on the water and I am so happy to have been able to be apart of the experience. Perfect photo or not!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

We Saw It All Today!

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Kittywake departed from our Friday Harbor location today as the sun was still high. This morning was pretty foggy so we were all happy that the weather took a turn for the best! We had calm waters, little wind, and clear skies for our afternoon whale watch.

We headed out through the San Juan Channel, into Cattle Pass and onto the West side of San Juan Island, just south of Lime Kiln Lighthouse. We caught up with our L-Pod members, Mystery and Wave Walker! They were foraging and having a great time tail slapping as they went along! Our guests were very happy to see them, for most, it was their first time ever seeing Orcas.

As we headed back, we were fortunate enough to see a Minke Whale, Harbor Seals, Harbor Porpoise, and even a Seller Sea Lion. As our guests put it, ‘was there anything we didn’t see today’?! I love days like this where we see such a wide variety of wildlife.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittywake
San Juan Safaris

L Pod, Minke Whale, and Stellar Sea Lions!

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Leaving Friday Harbor, Captain Mike, Kevin, passengers aboard M/V Sea Lion, and myself headed south towards the Westside of San Juan Island for both our afternoon and evening trip. On both of these trips we met up with a subgroup of L pod. Same as yesterday, it was Wave Walker, L-88, that stole the show! Wave Walker has a very distinctive saddle patch that helps in identifying this 20 year old male. He wasn’t alone though, he was joined up with L-84, Nyssa, and the L-54′s, who comprise of a mother and her 3 offspring. It was a great day not only to see resident orcas but also some other amazing wildlife in the area. We got great looks at a few Stellar Sea Lions that have made it back from up north, and also a lone Minke hanging out in Griffin Bay. Never a dull moment in the San Juan’s!


Caitlin, Naturalist-M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

L-Pod Orcas and Minke Whale!

Friday, August 9th, 2013

The M/V Kittywake left Friday Harbor this afternoon in search of an elusive Minke out in Griffin Bay! We soon caught up with the small whale feeding on sand lance, krill, and small schools of herring right off of San Juan Island. The Minke gave us lots of great views surfacing many times, giving our guests some great photography moments. It’s always a great day when we start off seeing whales ten minuets into our trip!

After we left the Minke Whale to continue foraging, we saw some Harbor Porpoise surfacing in the distance as well as Harbor Seals forging in the tidal up-welling zones.  The Harbor Seals quickly surrounded our boat, peering up at us with their large eyes (which makes them look so endearing)!  While we moved away from them, one Seal emerged with a large salmon in his mouth!

Of course, the best part of the trip on M/V Kittywake was when we got on seen with our Southern Resident Orcas. L-Pod was still off the West side of the Island foraging on the Chinook Salmon. We got some great views of Mystery and Wave Walker (L-85 & L-88), or large male Orcas.  All in all, it was a great day out on the water with everything from Sea Lions to Orca whales seen by all of our guests! I can’t wait to get out there tomorrow!

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittywake

San Juan Safaris

L Pod Near False Bay

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Another great day on the water for the M/V Sea Lion’s passengers and crew! It started off a little daunting when the fog bank had yet to clear before our afternoon trip, but Captain Craig timed it perfectly! Once we passed the southern tip of San Juan Island the fog bank cleared and it was smooth sailing till we arrived on scene with a few members of L Pod.
Our afternoon trip got to witness excellent foraging displays by the L-12′s, who were constantly corraling their prey below the surface. It was a great opportunity to witness their feeding displays in action!
However, it wasn’t till our evening trip that we got a more intimate look at L-88, Wave Walker! Wave walker is a mature male, who was born in 1993, and seemed to have taken a liking to the M/V Sea Lion. He gave passengers aboard a multitude of excellent looks and even followed our general trajectory as we motored away. I don’t think anyone aboard walked away without a great shot to share with family and friends back home!
Overall it was a great trip for both our afternoon and evening trips and I can’t tell how great it feels to see some black and whites back in the area!

Caitlin, Naturalist- M/V Sea Lion, San Juan Safaris

Orcas on the West Side of San Juan

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The M/V Kittiwake departed from our Friday Harbor location today with spirits set high with an awesome whale report early on. We confirmed the report later when we got on scene with our L-Pod Orcas! It was going to be a great day!

After going through the renowned Cattle Pass and a little bit of fog, the Kittiwake made her way to the Southwest side of San Juan Island off Pyle Point. It’s always a great sight to see your first dorsal fin and our guests were amazed at their grace and beauty. Our L-Pod Orcas were traveling close together tail slapping, spy hopping, and porpoising out of the water. L-87 (Mystery), L-85 (Guia), L-2 (Grace), L-88 (Wave Walker), and L-77 (Matia and her Calf) were all identified while on the water.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V Kittiwake
San Juan Safaris

The Orcas Are Back!!

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Captain Craig, Naturalist Andrew, and myself were all very excited to share with our guests that a group of resident orcas are back! As some of our readers know we haven’t been seeing our resident orcas recently so this news definitely had all of our staff very excited!
We caught up with part of L-pod just north of False Bay on the west side of San Juan Island. The whales were close to shore when we first arrived but then a male surfaced closer to our boat. Andrew and I were able to identify this male as L-88, Wave Walker. We could identify him because of his open saddle patch on his right side. Wave Walker did show us his tail a few times with doing some tail lobes.
Seeing as this is the first report of our residents in a while, the conservation K-9 boat, Moja, was out. This boat had Tucker the black lab on it and they were following L-pod. Soundwatch was also out monitoring all of the private boats as well as the whale watch boats. Soundwatch is a program out of the whale museum and is an education system on how to view our resident orcas properly.
After watching L-pod travel back and forth, we motored back home. All of our guests were excited that they were able to view part of our resident orcas. Andrew and I still are excited they are back and can’t wait for the rest of them to return!

Aimee-Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

Amazing Night with Transients and Residents!

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Blogging is always so much easier as a naturalist when you have amazing trips. I must say, I have been extremely fortunate throughout the 2013 season in having great trips. Tonight was another one of those top five best nights. Our Southern Resident Killer Whales surprised us all, as they usually do, by swimming the (roughly) 90 mile voyage from the western side of Vancouver Is. BC into the northern waters of the Puget Sound. It’s not uncommon for Killer Whales to swim 100+ miles a day; they can swim up to 30 mph and hold their breath for up to 25 minuets! Our Residents weren’t the only ones who made the journey into the Salish Sea however, our Transients did too!

When Captain Mike and I got on seen with the Orcas our guests were thrilled. We were watching a group of 12 transient whales that were different from the whales we had just seen the day before! There was one huge male in the group whose dorsal fin was very large and angular and another whose was “sprouting” into maturity. It is rare to see transients in the Puget Sound to begin with, seeing two different nomadic groups in two day is even rarer. Likewise, seeing a group of twelve transients in one pod is even rarer since they normally travel in smaller groups, making it easier for them to hunt their food.  It was just a crazy night! Not only were these whales here, but they were within a couple miles of our Resident Orcas, which was also very daunting. Normally, the two groups will avoid each other entirely. For those of you who are just starting to read these blogs, Transient Orcas feed solly on marine mammals. Our Resident Orcas feed only on fish, specifically Chinook Salmon. The two whales have completely different life styles, cultures, genetics and social structures.

Since the odds were stacked in our favor, Captain Mike and I decided to go check out our Resident Orcas- L-Pod. They were off of the north end of Stewart Is. and heading southwestern. When we got there, they were breaching in synchronicity, vocalizing like crazy, tail slapping … you name it, they were doing it! L-Pod member, Cruiser, was there as well as many females and a 2012 calf that was having tons of fun. It’s amazing to me that these whales are still able to carry on and live as they are. These whales are up against a lot. The Puget Sound is actually a “hotspot” for pollution. Chemicals such as PCBs, PBDEs and other biotoxins/flame retardents make our Southern Resident Killer Whales the most toxic Killer Whales in the world. Still, they survive and live on. Celebrating their way through life, and we are fortunate enough to be able to watch. It was an amazing night, full of wildlife and wonderful sights. What a great way to end a day, with one of the world smartest mammals, our Killer Whales.


Heather, Naturalist, M/V Sea Lion

San Juan Safaris

“Spirited” Whales and Wildlife of All Sorts!

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Today was a beautiful day to be on the water with plenty of action, and Caitlin, Captain Mike and I were out to experience it all! We left the dock and headed out to the south end of San Juan Island. As we went through Cattle Pass, there was a plethora of wildlife to be scene. A mated pair of Bald Eagles flew above the water in front of us and landed on Goose Island. Also on Goose Island were lots of hatchings! Fluff balls of down feathers and young, disoriented, hungry baby Galls covered the island! Now, normally I’m not particularity fond of Galls… but seeing all of the adorable hatchings bring a new side of “cuteness” to these terribly misunderstood creatures!

It’s also “pupping” season, and we saw many Harbor Seal pups with their mothers swimming and up on the rocks! Harbor Seal pups can swim within minuets of birth, but have been known to ride on Mom’s back holding on with their tiny flippers! This may seem well and good, but in 3-4 weeks that mother is going to abruptly wean and leave her pup, so he/she had better be paying attention and not catching too many free piggy-backs off Mom!

After we spent time with the Eagles and Seals, Mike slowed the boat down once more for something else; Harbor Porpoise surrounded our boat, and one even breached! There is nothing like seeing a 150lb Porpoise jump out of the water! That was a first for me! It’s actually unusual for Harbor Porpoise to spend that much time near a motor vessel, usually their very shy and disappear when large boasts are near; we were all very happy!

When we finally caught up with the L-22′s (Spirit, Skanna, and Solstice), and it was as if they were welcoming us. Right off, Solstice lept into the air in a full breach! From then on, lots of cartwheeling, breaching, spyhoping, rolling and tail slapping that occurred from all three of the L-Pod members! They just love the attention! Watching these three whales never gets old. They’ve been the only three killer whales in the Puget Sound for a while now, but they certainly know how to put on a show! I’ll visit these whales any day! They’ve really becoming quite partial to me.

Heather, Naturalist, M/V/ Sea Lion
San Juan Safaris